Kuhn, Shane. The Intern’s Handbook.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

As novels about hit men go, this one is pretty original. John Lago is preparing to retire at twenty-five, having been a highly trained and very successful employee of Human Resources, Inc. since he was twelve. At age eighteen, “Bob,” who runs the show, began sending him out as an intern to law firms and big corporations, tasked with eliminating one or another bent executive (often on behalf of his career competition).

Because no one pays any attention to interns, no one learns their names or even looks at their faces. They’re totally invisible, and that’s just the thing for an assassin. However, once you’re in your mid-twenties, you can’t pass as an intern any longer, so it’s time to move on. If Bob will let you.

John knows that each new class of killers-in-training will lose most of its members before they’re old enough to vote, so he’s offering a cheat-sheet of rules based on his own thirty-six successful hits, and he’s recording his last, unusually complicated assignment in great detail. Little does he know, though, that he’s going to meet THE girl in the process. It’s a tough problem for a sociopath with zero empathy, though those qualities are essential for a successful contract killer. And what if the girl turns out to be an FBI undercover agent? Actually, that’s just the top of the plot. There are enough red herrings and reversals here to make your head spin.

Kuhn is mostly an advertising writer and filmmaker and his breakneck narrative style reflects that. He kind of stretches the “intern” methodology though; it doesn’t work quite like that in Real Life. Also, the irony-laden smart-ass protagonist — you can’t really call him the “hero,” though you’ll develop some sympathy for him — is almost too skilled and too knowledgeable about practically everything, and the often graphic violence pushes the envelope. However, the story never quite slips to comic-book level and it’s leavened with plenty of noir humor. Enjoy it but don’t think you have to take it too seriously. And the film will probably be out soon.

Published in: on 2 January 2015 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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